Formula 1 Grand Prix ‘biggest sporting event’ ever staged in Saudi Arabia: Prince Khalid

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal highlighted progress on preparations for the event in Jeddah and spoke about the legacy the F1 race would have going forward. (Supplied)
Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal highlighted progress on preparations for the event in Jeddah and spoke about the legacy the F1 race would have going forward. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 August 2021

Formula 1 Grand Prix ‘biggest sporting event’ ever staged in Saudi Arabia: Prince Khalid

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal highlighted progress on preparations for the event in Jeddah and spoke about the legacy the F1 race would have going forward. (Supplied)
  • Chairman of Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation talks to Arab News about December’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, ticket sales, F1 legacy

JEDAH: Saudi Arabia was gearing up for “the biggest sporting event the country has ever hosted” when Formula 1 racing roars into Jeddah later this year.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, made his comment about the milestone sporting occasion when he spoke to Arab News ahead of the penultimate round of the Formula 1 World Championship being staged in the Red Sea port city.

Motorsport fans in Saudi Arabia have been rushing to snap up tickets for the first-ever Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix which will take place on the streets of Jeddah from Dec. 3 to 5.

Grandstand, premium hospitality, and paddock club tickets went on sale earlier this week and already demand in the Kingdom has been high.

Government restrictions on spectators at sporting events due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic mean that only a 40 percent capacity crowd can currently be allowed, but it is hoped that more tickets could be released over the coming weeks if the virus outbreak is contained through the global roll out of vaccines.

Prince Khalid highlighted progress on preparations for the event in Jeddah and spoke about the legacy the race would have going forward.

How have early ticket sales been and do you expect the capacity to increase from the current 40 percent restriction?

After tickets went on sale, we have already seen a strong demand in just the first few days. It’s important to say this race is for everyone. We want to offer everybody a fair price so fans can come to the race with their friends and family and enjoy an amazing event.

We love motorsport and we love Formula 1 in Saudi Arabia and the people have been waiting many years for a race to take place in our country.

Although the government has lifted some restrictions, we are still only allowed 40 percent capacity, but we are optimistic we can have full occupancy of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit by December.

With 70 percent of the population vaccinated (against COVID-19) and cases not as high as they used to be, we are heading in the right direction. This is great news for the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

What can fans expect when they attend the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix?

First of all, the Red Sea and the Jeddah Corniche is one of the most amazing places in the world and the weather in December is beautiful.

There will be so much on offer during the three-day event which, aside from the Formula 1 race, will be full of many supporting activities and entertainment, with live concerts, great food, art, and culture to discover in the fan zones around the track and city.

We like entertainment and we like sports, and many Saudis have to travel abroad for many of these events. Now we can offer the people of our country our own unique experience.

Formula 1 street races are usually held on tight, twisty tracks, but the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is set to be one of the longest and fastest on the whole of the calendar. How did this come about?

We know with street races we are quite limited in our options due to the nature of the public roads, but the location we found in Jeddah wasn’t fully developed. That gave us a lot of flexibility to create a very fast street track which will provide us with a very exciting race with a predicted average top speed of over 250 kilometers per hour.

The initial plan was to create a permanent circuit and motorsports city at Qiddiya near Riyadh, and that will host a race in 2023. But as we have such a big fan base here, and 70 percent of our population are aged under 30, we wanted to accelerate our hosting of a Formula 1 race, so chose to create this street track in Jeddah.

As we are four months away from our first race, now all of the infrastructure — drainage, sewers, electricity — is all complete. We expect the track will be ready by early October and all the main buildings, such as the pits, done by early November.

Considering the restrictions of working under COVID-19 regulations, it has been a challenge, but we have a very professional team working on this project that has made this mission possible, not mission impossible.

This year there is a fascinating battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. What are your thoughts on Saudi Arabia potentially hosting the title decider?

I’ve really enjoyed the fight between the Mercedes and Red Bull this year. I was at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix recently and this is what everybody wants to see, the top drivers fighting for the title and for it to go down to the wire.

We wish for it to continue, and we don’t want either side to dominate. We want to see hard and safe racing and for the best team to win.

Why is it important for Saudi Arabia to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix?

It’s the next step on our motorsport journey. We first hosted Formula E, the Dakar Rally, the Cross-Country Baja Rally, and these have been very important for us as we wanted to showcase our country to the world. We also need to think about our future and tourism is important for our economy.

But it’s more than that. We are also bringing motorsport to the people of Saudi Arabia, not only for them to enjoy but to be inspired.

We are building a team to manage this race and as Saudis we want the majority of people who work on this project to be from this country. We have enthusiastic young people in Saudi to show the world what we can do as a nation.

Formula 1 is important to us because it is the pinnacle of motorsport, the most exciting race series in the world, and the biggest sporting event that Saudi Arabia will host.

What will be the lasting legacy of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix?

We want to inspire people. We want opportunities to build careers in motorsport. One day we want to have a Saudi race driver, a man or a woman, racing in Formula 1 and winning the World Championship.

We want to have Saudi engineers, mechanics, marshals, journalists. For us it’s about building and creating an industry and we want events in the future to be organized and run by the locals here.

We are bringing the race to the Saudis for them to be a part of that story and to enjoy its legacy. That’s why it’s important to align with institutions, such as King Abdul Aziz University, and to have as many people as possible from Saudi Arabia engaged in Formula 1 and to be a part of this amazing opportunity. I can’t wait for the race to start.


AFCON hosts Cameroon labor to beat Comoros side deprived of goalkeeper

AFCON hosts Cameroon labor to beat Comoros side deprived of goalkeeper
Updated 7 sec ago

AFCON hosts Cameroon labor to beat Comoros side deprived of goalkeeper

AFCON hosts Cameroon labor to beat Comoros side deprived of goalkeeper
  • Comoros had to play left-back Chaker Alhadhur between the posts in Yaounde
  • To add to their woes, they had captain Nadjim Abdou sent off after just seven minutes
YAOUNDÉ: Hosts Cameroon are through to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations but only after laboring to a 2-1 win over a Comoros side who were forced to start an outfield player in goal and played most of the game with 10 men.
The Comoros started with left-back Chaker Alhadhur between the posts in Yaounde after two of their three goalkeepers were ruled out due to Covid-19 while the other was missing due to injury.
They then had captain Nadjim Abdou sent off after just seven minutes, and Karl Toko-Ekambi put Cameroon in front before skipper Vincent Aboubakar netted his sixth goal of the tournament.
Despite that it was a heroic performance from the Comoros, who kept the tie alive until the end thanks to Youssouf M’Changama’s stunning late free-kick.
The Indomitable Lions keep their dream of winning the Cup of Nations on home soil alive as they advance to a last-eight tie against Gambia on Saturday, yet this was the Comoros’ night, despite the outcome.
The tiny Indian Ocean island nation qualified for the last 16 in their first ever appearance at the Cup of Nations after finishing as one of the best third-placed teams in the group stage.
However, their dream turned to a nightmare as a total of 12 players and staff tested positive for Covid-19 two days before the tie, including goalkeepers Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseini.
Their other goalkeeper, Salim Ben Boina, was injured but they had hoped Ahamada would be able to start after he tested negative on the day of the game.
The 30-year-old Ahamada flew from Garoua, where he had been isolating, to Yaounde on Monday afternoon in the hope of being able to play, only for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to decide otherwise as his positive result had come just two days earlier.
Alhadhur, a reserve left-back for French Ligue 2 side Ajaccio, wore the gloves, with tape used to mark out his number three on the back of his goalkeeper’s jersey.
It was a farcical scene, and the Comoros’ plight worsened when Abdou was shown a straight red card for a foul on Moumi Ngamaleu after the Ethiopian referee went to review images of his challenge.
Rather than give up, the Comoros kept going and they only fell behind in the 29th minute when Aboubakar teed up Toko-Ekambi to slot home.
The islanders, whose coach Amir Abdou was among those missing after testing positive, almost equalized shortly after as Ahmed Mogni forced Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana into a fine save.
Aboubakar had a second-half effort disallowed for offside before making it 2-0 with 20 minutes left, finishing excellently after being picked out by Martin Hongla.
Yet there was no collapse from the Comoros, who pulled one back courtesy of M’Changama’s piledriver from 35 meters and go out with their heads held high.

Tunisia stun favorites Nigeria to boost Arab hopes at AFCON

Tunisia stun favorites Nigeria to boost Arab hopes at AFCON
Updated 24 January 2022

Tunisia stun favorites Nigeria to boost Arab hopes at AFCON

Tunisia stun favorites Nigeria to boost Arab hopes at AFCON
  • Unexpected 1-0 win over Super Eagles shows group stage will have little bearing on where trophy ends up
  • If Egypt can take some inspiration from Tunisia when they meet Ivory Coast on Tuesday, then the Arab world will have more than one team to cheer for when the quarter-finals kick off

The African Cup of Nations has already seen Ghana out, defending champions Algeria finish bottom of their group and now Nigeria eliminated at a relatively early stage after a shock loss at the hands of a COVID-19-ridden Tunisia on Sunday.

That result really showed that the trophy could go anywhere, and as unimpressive as Egypt have been so far, coach Carlos Queiroz’s words after the group stage ended are looking increasingly accurate.

“Now the real work begins, and now the real competition will begin,” he said. It was the kind of thing that you would expect such an experienced campaigner to say. After all, Egypt had not impressed in the group stage with a poor, to say the least, performance in a 1-0 loss to Nigeria in the opener. It was followed by two unconvincing victories by the same scoreline against Guinea-Bissau and then Sudan.

With criticism at home, it was understandable, then, that Queiroz, who took the job in September, wanted to look forward rather than back. Yet the 68-year-old former Real Madrid manager has taken four teams through successful World Cup qualification campaigns and knows what he is talking about.

Nigeria were perhaps the best team in the group stage and were certainly the only one to take maximum points. Drawn against Tunisia then in the second round, the Super Eagles, newly installed as tournament favorites, were expected to win. Not only had they been impressive in the first round, with winger Moses Simon a real standout, but Tunisia had been anything but.

The North Africans had limped through to the last 16 as one of the best third-placed teams, winning just one game and losing against Mali and Gambia, the latter an embarrassing defeat. All their goals had come in the 4-0 win over Mauritania. The odds were against the Carthage Eagles flying any higher in the tournament.

A serious outbreak of COVID-19 in the Tunisia camp lengthened the odds of a win considerably. The federation announced that as many as 12 players out of the 28-man squad had tested positive, including star striker Wahbi Khazri. By the time the Nigeria game rolled around, at least seven players were unavailable. Coach Monhder Kebaier had also tested positive and his duties were taken over by assistant Bilal Kadri.

But the Tunisian coaching staff did not use the infections as an excuse at any point. Despite all the problems, or perhaps because of them, Tunisia gave everything, working harder than their opponents, who gave the impression that they expected a comfortable evening. In what was a highly disciplined performance, Tunisia gave Simon no time or space, doubled up on the Nantes star and tried to cut off the supply to the forwards.

Nigeria, who had looked the most creative of all the teams in the group stage (though admittedly the bar had been set pretty low by the rest), seemed to have few ideas and only started to come alive after Tunisia took the lead early in the second half thanks to a fierce long-range shot from Youssef Msakni. But a red card given to Alex Iwobi handed the initiative back to Tunisia, and in the end, they recorded a shock but deserved win. The 2004 champions now move into the quarter-finals and a winnable tie against Burkina Faso on Saturday. The extra six days should mean that coach Kebaier can field his strongest team, and hopes are now high.

If Egypt can take some inspiration from Tunisia when they meet Ivory Coast on Tuesday, then the Arab world will have more than one team to cheer for when the quarter-finals kick off. With Queiroz a big fan of discipline, organization and shape, he will not have that much to learn defensively, but in terms of mood and confidence, Tunisia put the mediocrity of the group stage behind them and went out to win and, importantly, took their chances.

It does not matter now how Egypt performed last week. They have a chance to reset, but they must start to take their chances after scoring only two goals in 270 minutes so far. “Look, I promise you, starting from tomorrow they are going to be doing finishing exercises from the morning until the afternoon,” Queiroz said at the weekend. “They just need to score more goals. To only play good football is not enough — we need to build up more goals and with that be more relaxed in the game.”

Tunisia’s win over Nigeria serves as a perfect reminder that not only does the tournament start here, but that it is wide open. Ghana are out, Algeria are out and now Nigeria are out. It really is up for grabs.


Coach Polyana Lago building on year of success for UAE women’s jiu-jitsu

Coach Polyana Lago building on year of success for UAE women’s jiu-jitsu
Updated 24 January 2022

Coach Polyana Lago building on year of success for UAE women’s jiu-jitsu

Coach Polyana Lago building on year of success for UAE women’s jiu-jitsu
  • Under Brazilian’s guidance, female athletes claimed 9 gold, 8 silver, 8 bronze medals at World Championship

ABU DHABI: Last year was a game changer for jiu-jitsu in the UAE, with more homegrown talent competing and winning in local and international events on mats.

UAE athletes claimed 71 medals from two international championships in the second half of 2021, with success coming at the 5th Jiu-Jitsu Asian Championship and the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

The record year was amplified by the rise of the UAE’s women’s team, which claimed nine gold, eight silver and eight bronze medals at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in November.

Following the success of 2021, Polyana Lago, coach of the UAE National Women’s Jiu-Jitsu team, is now looking for her players to use their experience as a springboard to even more glory in 2022.

“We enter the new season with great ambitions after an impressive season and great achievements last year,” said the 41-year-old Brazilian, who only began working with the women’s team in the summer of 2021.

“We actually had two really excellent weeks; we were confined to a hotel and were able to train together; it was a good experience for each of us.

“We had a fantastic season last year; our women champions put in an outstanding performance, particularly at the World Championship, when they won a total of 25 medals. Some of the girls did really well,” she added.

Lago said that the new format of the Mother of the Nation Jiu-Jitsu League helped the UAE national women’s team achieve the historic feat. “It contributed significantly to the championship’s outstanding results last year, as well as making it more professional. We were able to determine other national team talents as a result of the event,” she added.

She has high hopes for the 2022 season, with her athletes set to take part in a host of major events, including the Mother of the Nation Cup, Jiu-Jitsu President’s Cup and Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Ahead of this year’s events, Lago revealed that she is “working on key areas of development” with her players.


Win over Kuwait earns Saudi Arabia fifth place at Junior Fencing World Cup

Win over Kuwait earns Saudi Arabia fifth place at Junior Fencing World Cup
Updated 24 January 2022

Win over Kuwait earns Saudi Arabia fifth place at Junior Fencing World Cup

Win over Kuwait earns Saudi Arabia fifth place at Junior Fencing World Cup
  • The Saudi team’s next assignment is the Junior and Cadet World Fencing Championships in Dubai in April

The Saudi Arabian national team finished fifth place at the Junior Fencing World Cup in Manama, Bahrain, after defeating the Kuwait team 45-29.

The team had earlier in the competition beaten Belarus 45-44, before losing 45-31 to the third-ranked French team.

Saudi Arabia was represented by Hussein Al-Taweel, Omar Al-Akkas, Ahmed Al-Faihani and Abdul Karim Al-Halifi, and overseen by coach Mohamed Fouad.

Ahmed Al-Sabban, President of the Saudi Fencing Federation, revealed his delight at the team’s finish, the best by an Asian team at the tournament, and said it was a vindication of the performance development set by the federation, as well as the strategy of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee.

Al-Sabban said that such a finish is not the limit of Saudi fencing’s ambitions, and he is seeking even better performances at the Junior and Cadet World Fencing Championships in Dubai this April.


Countdown to Saudi International starts with event for media and influencers at Riyadh City Boulevard

Countdown to Saudi International starts with event for media and influencers at Riyadh City Boulevard
Updated 24 January 2022

Countdown to Saudi International starts with event for media and influencers at Riyadh City Boulevard

Countdown to Saudi International starts with event for media and influencers at Riyadh City Boulevard
  • Guests received coaching workshops and took on golf challenges ahead of the tournament at King Abdullah Economic City’s Royal Greens Golf and Country Club on Feb. 3-6

RIYADH: With the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers less than two weeks away, Saudi Arabia’s leading golf coaches joined forces to host an evening introducing 60 influencers and members of the media to the sport.

The event was held at “First Golf” — a new golfing entertainment destination managed by Golf Saudi that sits at the heart of Riyadh City Boulevard.

The guests received tuition, took on golf challenges, spoke to tournament officials as well as seeing the revered Saudi International trophy that was reclaimed last year by US star Dustin Johnson — the world No. 3.

The PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers is just weeks away with some of the world’s best biggest stars teeing off at King Abdullah Economic City’s Royal Greens Golf and Country Club on Feb. 3-6.

The tournament, now part of the Asian Tour, is helping to spread interest in golf in the Kingdom, part of Golf Saudi’s strategy to see more Saudi nationals become active in the sport as part of Vision 2030. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s fastest growing golf markets with ambitions for 2025 that include getting 3.5 million people to take up the sport for the first time, 320 contracted schools for golf curriculum activity and 135,000 children actively engaging in the sport.

“Since the inaugural Saudi International tournament in 2019, we’ve seen the golf market really thriving in the Kingdom,” said Ed Edwards, Golf Saudi chief operating officer.

“Participation numbers, interest and engagement is growing year-on-year here in the Kingdom. Hosting world class and international tournament gives an amazing platform for our mass participation programs here at Golf Saudi to roll out across clubs, schools and the wider golfing industry.

“Facilities like ‘First Golf’ makes the sport more accessible for newcomers in a fun and relaxed way for all abilities and all ages. We’re creating modern and urban touch points to allow more opportunities for Saudis to engage with the game at a purely social level,” he said.

The media evening saw Golf Saudi’s coaches give specialist coaching and education on the sport. The coaches are also overseeing the Kingdom’s very best talent — with the national teams currently notching wins recently at the Arab Golf Championship and Jordan Open as participation increases on the regional and Asian circuits.

“It’s so encouraging to see women, men, boys and girls really get into this sport — and swing a club for the very first time,” said Reem Alqubaisi, a Golf Saudi coach.

“Initiatives and modern facilities similar to what we have here at First Golf provide a great environment to introduce and educate people on this amazing sport. Everyone has been trying to smash their driver, inspired by Bryson DeChambeau and the other stars who will heading to the Kingdom in the next two weeks.”

DeChambeau will be part of a star-studded field packed with Ryder Cup stars and Major-winning golfers heading to compete in the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, where the likes of defending champion Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton and Louis Oosthuizen will join him.